You probably reach for this unconsciously at most every meal. Some people like liberal amounts of it added to most everything—eggs, soups, salads, chicken, steak, burgers, and on and on. I’ve even seen some delicious desserts prepared with this interesting, spicy ingredient.
What is it? Black pepper! This low-key ingredient graces most every table around the world. Like many spices, this common one packs a powerful antioxidant, phytonutrient-heavy punch!
Black pepper’s whole corns are actually berries that grow on the pepper plant. This small woody vine produces white flowers that develop into berries. These berries are harvested and dried and become either the whole peppercorns that you grind or you purchase it already ground into a powder. Black pepper, green pepper, and white pepper are all from the same fruit—it is just harvested at different times.
Black pepper is picked when the fruit is half ripe and just before it turns red. The peppercorns are left to dry and they become darker. The green peppercorns are picked before they ripen and are still green, while the white pepper is picked ripe, soaked and the hulls are removed, making it white. Pink pepper comes from a totally different plant that is actually more related to ragweed.
This zingy, essential ingredient holds some great health benefits. Let’s take a look…
Anti-Inflammatory, Antioxidant, and Anti-Cancer
Black pepper contains an active ingredient called piperine. Black pepper actually has antioxidant, cancer fighting, anti-inflammatory activity. In some studies, when black pepper was present, human cancer cells were inhibited from growing due to these actions.
And even more interesting is when black pepper is combined with the curcumin in turmeric, it actually enhances the absorption of the curcumin and increases its amazing antioxidant, anti-inflammatory powers.
Black pepper or piper nigrum helps to send an alert that starts with the taste buds in your mouth which travels to the stomach. When your stomach receives that signal, it begins to increase the hydrochloric acid production, thereby preparing it to better digest food.
Hydrochloric acid is one of the primary stomach enzymes necessary for proper breakdown of food into absorbable nutrients. It is especially important for protein and fats. Many, many people have weakened digestive systems, leading to heartburn (yes this is due to an inadequate amount of digestive enzymes, not too much) and slow digestion. Hydrochloric acid also helps to speed up transit time through the intestines, help it absorb nutrients better, and also fight many GI diseases.
Black pepper helps to combat constipation, diarrhea and food-borne bacteria as well. This study shows that black pepper helps to stop the growth of dangerous E.coli and Staph aureus bacteria, so if you are eating food from a buffet or picnic, adding lots of black pepper may help stave off any sort of food poisoning.
Eating foods that cause gas? Black pepper is considered an effective carminative, which means it helps to prevent gas in the intestines, leading you to smoother (and quieter!) digestion.
Helps Reduce Weight
Piperine in black pepper also helps to burn fat and lower blood sugar, making it an excellent additive to foods for combating obesity and diabetes.
In another study conducted on animals, a high fat diet combined with black pepper significantly reduced body weight, triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL and the very harmful VLDL, along with fat mass. It also help to increase the beneficial HDL. So, piperine can help reduce fat and lipids, which can help you lose weight.
Helps You Absorb Valuable Nutrients
We have most likely heard all the amazingly valuable benefits of the super-food of the century, turmeric. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric that has the most powerful benefits on our bodies.
However, one of the problems with curcumin is that it is very hard to absorb into the body in order to get its superpower health benefits. But, when combined with piperine from black pepper, its absorption and benefits are multiplied exponentially!
One study showed that adding 20 mg of piperine to 2 grams of curcumin increased its absorption significantly. Research shows that combining the piperine in black pepper with the curcumin in turmeric can enhance curcumin absorption by up to 2,000%
So, if you want to increase the health benefits of both black pepper and curcumin, combining curcumin with piperine dramatically increases the positive effects of both.
Experts have also looked into the ability of piperine to increase the body’s absorption of resveratrol. Resveratrol is a red wine compound that may slow aging and lower a person’s risks for brain disorders, heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
The addition of piperine significantly improved the bioavailability of resveratrol, according to Nihal Ahmad, a professor of dermatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health who studied the effect piperine has on the body’s absorption of resveratrol.
Piperine apparently blocks a metabolic process in the body, known as glucuronidation, which causes resveratrol to break apart before it gets absorbed into the bloodstream. By slowing down this process, piperine may help the body take up more beneficial resveratrol. So how about a little black pepper with your wine?
Piperine also increases the body’s ability to absorb betacarotenes, selenium and B-vitamins including pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin as well as other nutrients from food.
Prevents Harmful Substances that Form When Grilling Meat
Grilling meat over hot coals or flames produces a carcinogenic substance called “herterocyclic amines”, or HCA’s. These form when meat is cooked or charred over high temperatures. That unfortunately means that char-grilled steak or flame-grilled burger has some cancer-causing ingredients. Studies have shown that just a teaspoon of black pepper per half pound of meat will almost completely eliminate the formation of HCA’s during cooking.
If that’s a bit too much spice in your meat, you can get the same effect from mixing pepper, oregano, rosemary or other herbs in the same spice-to-meat ration to get the same effects. Here is an article I wrote that teaches you the healthiest way to grill your meat.
Helps you Quit Smoking
Some of the sensory cues that are associated with cigarette smoking can actually help to suppress the withdrawal symptoms, including the craving part—which is the worst part, according to one study. A vapor of black pepper essential oil was given to 48 cigarette-smoking participants in a three-hour session, after the subjects were deprived of cigarettes. A second group inhaled from a mint/menthol cartridge device, and a third group from an empty cartridge.
Cigarette craving was significantly reduced in the group given black pepper extract, compared to the other two groups and it alleviated symptoms of anxiety. The conclusion: Black pepper constituents may be useful in developing smoking cessation treatments.
Powerful Spice That Adds Flavor and Zing
Black pepper contains some powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant anti-cancer health benefits. It also helps to boost the nutrient power from other healthy foods. It fights bacteria, aids in digestion, and helps with weight loss. So when the waiter comes around with that big pepper mill asking if you want a little bit on your salad or main course, say, “Pepper up!”
A Note of Caution
If you are taking prescription drugs, it’s possible that swallowing heavy doses of piperine or large amounts of black pepper could interfere with the action of these medicines. Check with your physician first before starting on any type of piperine supplement.
If your are interested in reaping in the health benefits of turmeric and black pepper, take a look at my good friend Cody’s Turmeric product. His Turmeric with Bioperine is the highest absorption Turmeric available.